Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Back to school

This was supposed to be the NHL's dream match up for the Stanley Cup Final. A series that could get the attention of the casual sports fan. A series that might actually raise the struggling television ratings in the United States. The savvy and veteran Detroit Red Wings versus the young Penguin stars from Pittsburgh. An original six dynasty against a Penguins team that was nearly bankrupt a few years ago and now seems poised to become a dynasty themselves. This was supposed to be Sidney Crosby's graduation party. What happened?
The comparisons to the '83 Oilers will intensify now as the Penguins are in serious danger of being bounced from the Stanley Cup final before they realize it's even started. The Wings are all over the ice, winning all the races. When a Pittsburgh player heads for the puck, two Wings are already there. When a shot does get through to the Detroit net Osgood is there waiting. He lead the league this year in save percentage and we're seeing his skills on display in the finals, especially period one of game one. When the Wings get the lead they can split up Datsyuk and Zetterberg on to separate lines. With Kris Draper on the third line the Wings have three lines with a Selke trophy winner or nominee that is capable of shutting down anyone.
Experts in all major sports will tell you it's not over until you've lost at home. The Wings have delivered the first two punches in this heavyweight battle and in my opinion, if the Penguins are not careful, the knockout punch is coming in Pittsburgh. I had the Wings winning in six. I would have loved to see either team win in a game seven. A sweep though... how disappointing would that be? Well, not for Wings fans. Crosby and Malkin need to pass the puck to create room for themselves and get their teammates involved. I remember a game when I lived in Vancouver where Naslund had a hat trick and the puck was on his stick for a total of two seconds or less. All the goals were one timers after the Canucks gained the zone with crisp, clean passes. I hope for hockey's sake the Pens defend their home ice and send this series back to Detroit 2-2.
Speaking of not seeing a punch coming...How about Roberts punching recently concussed Franzen in the head? In this era of hockey we often hear of a lack of respect among players for their union brothers. I was surprised to see a veteran like Roberts take such an obvious cheap shot. I'm not saying leave Franzen alone all game. He's a very dangerous scoring threat. However, if you're looking to send a message, do it in the first period when the score is 0-0. Not when the game is out of reach.
Detroit has been schooling your team through two games and now you've pissed them off. Poking an angry bear can only have one result - you lose your hand. Expect to see Malkin on the radar of Kronwall for several bone bruising hits. Taking cheap shots at any team's stars or goalie will only get you the same in return.
It will be very interesting next game to see how Pittsburgh comes out in the first ten minutes of period one. If there's some jump in their step or they get the first goal we may have a series yet. If Detroit comes out and continues the shutout streak beyond the first period this thing is done in four. Enjoy the game everyone...

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